Lepus nigricollisIndian hare

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Geographic Range

Lepus nigricollis is found in southern India. These hares range as far east as Godavari and west as far as Khandesh, Berar, and Madhya Pradesh. Lepus nigricollis are also native to Sri Lanka. They have been introduced into Java, Mauritius, and Seychelles.

(Grzimek, 1975; Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)

Habitat

Lepus nigricollis are generally found in areas where large tracts of bush and jungle alternate with farmland. They are also commonly sighted in coastal herb communities. Hilly areas, particularly the depressions at the base of hills, are preferred habitats for L. nigricollis.

(Prater, 1965; Kirk and Racey, 1992)

Physical Description

Lepus nigricollis are also called black-naped hares due to the patch of black fur that runs along the nape of the neck. The top of the tail is also black and the back and face are brown with black hairs scattered throughout. The underparts are white. Total length ranges from 40 to 70 cm and weight ranges from 1.35 to 7 kg.

Like all hares, they have long ears and large hind feet which are well furred. There is some evidence that hares that have been introduced to islands are smaller than those in mainland India. Regardless of location, female L. nigricollis tend to be larger than males.

(Kirk and Bathe, 1994; Prakash and Taneja, 1969; Prater, 1965; Nowak, 1995)

  • Range mass
    1.35 to 7 kg
    2.97 to 15.42 lb
  • Average mass
    4.17 kg
    9.19 lb
  • Range length
    40 to 70 cm
    15.75 to 27.56 in

Reproduction

During mating season, male L. nigricollis become aggressive, sparring with other males using their forepaws and "boxing" with their hind feet. Males will attempt to mate with as many females as they can.

(Nowak, 1995)

Reproduction rates tend to be at their highest during the wet season, though L. nigricollis will generally breed year round. The increased rate of reproduction is likely the result of an increase in nutrient rich foods. On average, 69% of adult females are pregnant every year. In L. nigricollis dayanus, a subspecies of Indian hare, reproduction is also dependent on the length of the day. One to eight young are born after a gestation period of 41 to 47 days. Sexual maturity occurs in the year following birth.

(Prakash and Taneja, 1969)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs year round but is highest between October and February.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
    1.84
  • Range gestation period
    42 to 44 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Young L. nigricollis, called leverets, are precocial at birth. They are born well furred and with open eyes. The female gives birth in a "form", or hollow made in the grass. She will hide her young in dense vegetation and visit them for nursing, which lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Young hares are odorless and will remain very still while hidden. They will usually not breed until they are at least 1 year old.

(DeBlase and Martin, 1981; Grzimek, 1975; Nowak, 1995)

Lifespan/Longevity

Longevity in L. nigricollis is unknown but other hare species tend to live 5 years in the wild and up to 7 years in captivity.

Behavior

Lepus nigricollis spend much of the daytime sleeping in "forms" or depressions made in the grass. Occasionally they will be seen stretched out on their sides, sunning themselves. They are primarily diurnal and solitary, though may aggregate somewhat for breeding.

(Grzimek, 1975; Prater, 1965)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Lepus nigricollis is herbivorous, though the types of vegetation it eats varies. Many of the areas these animals inhabit have wet and dry seasons and these play a large role in food availability. During the wet season, short grasses are abundant and they are the preferred food. During the dry season, when short grasses are scarce, more flowering plants are consumed. They also eat crops and germinating seeds. Like all hares, L. nigricollis practices coprophagy.

(DeBlase and Martin, 1981; Krik and Racey, 1992; Nowak, 1995)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves

Predation

Lepus nigricollis depends on strong running abilities to avoid predators, but if necessary, will find shelter in a cave or hollow tree.

Predators include Canids (foxes, wolves, dhole), Herpestids (mongeese), Felids (leopards and wild cats), humans, eagles and hawks.

(Grzimek, 1975; Karanth and Sunquist, 1995; Nowak, 1995)

Ecosystem Roles

In many places, L. nigricollis are considered pests because of the damage they can do to young trees and to crops. On the island of Cousin, in the Seychilles chain, they have had an extreme impact on trees used by rare, endemic bird species. There are ongoing studies to determine the best way to deal with their impact.

Lepus nigricollis are also important prey for many carnivores. One study found them to be the second most commonly consumed species by wolves in the Velavadar National Park in Gujarat, India. Lepus nigricollis are also eaten by leopard and dhole, though they only make up around 1.3% of their diet.

(Karanth and Sunquist, 1995; Kirk and Racey, 1992; Jhala, 1993; Prater, 1965)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

While the fur of L. nigricollis is not very durable, it is used to make felt and to line gloves. Lepus nigricollis is also eaten by native peoples. It was introduced to the Seychelles to provide food for plantation workers.

(Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Lepus nigricollis can destroy crops and young trees if other food sources are scarce. This can be especially devastating on islands to which they have been introduced. They also tend to be plentiful and can be a nuisance in areas where people are found.

(Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

L. nigricollis are locally abundant and are not currently a conservation concern.

Contributors

Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Sarah Foote (author), Michigan State University.

Glossary

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coprophage

an animal that mainly eats the dung of other animals

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

DeBlase, A., R. Martin. 1981. A Manual of Mammology. New York: Crown Publishing Inc..

Grzimek, B. 1975. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, vol 12. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co..

Jhala, Y. 1993. Predation on blackbuck by wolves in Velavadar National Park, Gujarat, India. Conservation Biology, 7: 874-881.

Karanth, K., M. Sunquist. 1995. Prey selection by tiger, leopard and dhole in tropical forests. Journal of Animal Ecology, 64: 439-450.

Kirk, D., G. Bathe. 1994. Population size and home range of black-naped hares *Lepus nigricollis nigricollis* on Cousin Island (Seychelles, Indian Ocean). Mammalia, 58: 557-562.

Kirk, D., P. Racey. 1992. Effects of the introduced black-naped hare *Lepus nigricollis nigricollis* on the vegetation of Cousin Island, Seychilles and possible implications for avifauna. Biological Conservation, 61: 171-179.

Nowak, R. 1995. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed 08 April, 2002 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walker/lagomorpha.leporidae.lepus.html.

Prakash, I., G. Taneja. 1969. Reproduction biology of the Indian desert hare *Lepus nigricollis dayanus* Blanford. Mammalia, 33: 103-117.

Prater, S. 1965. Book of Indian Animals, 2nd edition. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society.